This is a blast from the past. I wrote this article in June 2003. Case modding was relatively new at that time and I stumbled into it during my search for components to use in a new computer build. I wrote this about case cutting because there was so little information about it available at the time. This is presented in its original, multi-part format. Follow the links provided as I share my method for modding a computer case by adding glass windows to the sides.
Case Cutting Intro
Computer case windows have become the norm. Just a few short years ago (end of 20th century), there were no case windows or any other stylized modifications of a computer case. Now they are everywhere you look. Computer system manufacturers offer everything from a small window and an extra fan to ornate etchings, appliqués and high quality paint jobs.
I will try to walk you through planning and cutting a window in the side of your computer. It’s not difficult; all it takes is a few standard tools and some attention to detail. You will be rewarded with an interesting view of the inner workings of your computer and the awe of your family and friends at your artistic talents.
Planning & Preparation of Your Case Modding Project
This can make or break your project. It’s hard to turn back, once you’ve cut into the metal. There are several ways to plan the window. You can mark up the case door with pencil, draw it out on paper or use the tools of REAL geeks and open up the CADD program. I must not be a real geek, ’cause I don’t have a CADD program. I did draw a scale drawing of the door and then made several copies of it so I could afford to make mistakes. This is a Antec SX-635 case.
If you have visited case modding forums, you prob’ly think a Dremel or other rotary tool is all you need. WRONG! It is very definitely a handy tool to have around the mod shop, but it isn’t by far the only tool you’ll need. And, as far as this particular type of window is concerned, you would be foolish to try to cut with this.
You are going to need a variety of tools for this. You can get by with less and you may be able to find substitutes, but do gather the tools and equipment you’ll need before beginning. Here are the tools I used: Safety First! We’re gonna be cutting metal. That means metal shavings flying through the air getting in your eyes and lungs. At the very least, you should wear goggles and a face mask, like you see here. I used the face mask during this part of the project.
The jigsaw on the right is my cutting tool of choice. With the right blade, a sturdy surface and steady hand, you can cut some very tight corners. This is a versatile tool; it can also be used to cut the acrylic you might use for your window. Blades are available for smooth to coarse and metals to wood to plastics. The base tilts to 45° and most are variable speeds and many now come cordless.
The drill is another one of those useful tools that does a lot more than just drill holes. It is a rotary tool and can be used in a similar fashion as the Dremel for grinding and sanding edges. I used it to start the corners on my window mod. I didn’t want square corners, so I loaded this up with a 1″ hole saw. Although this is a corded drill I’ve used for many years (even now, in 2018), cordless drills are more popular and I have switched to those for most of my DIY projects.
No matter how good your tools are or how steady your hand, your results will be disappointing unless you can keep your work from moving. A few clamps will do the job. I have a variety in various sizes. The clamps I will be using for this case modding project are the pistol grip clamps; they are easy to position and their grip is superb. There are flexible vinyl tips on each jaw to protect your work. Below those are “C” clamps, which are good for clamping around obstacles. Then there are the corner clamps, but those are for another project.
To help smooth up those case modding cuts, a set of files is essential. You can make do with a couple of basic files, a flat and a half round. I have several sets of files for just about any task large or small. Files are excellent for straightening out a slightly crooked line and for taking the burr off the cut edges. They will round out a jagged corner and can get into all kinds of tight areas. I used them extensively on this project.
Because this mod includes a complete new, 2-tone paint job (with satin black accents too), primer and color coats are on the shopping list. I found that the spray paint that comes in a rattle can works best if it is warmed ever so little (you get it too hot and BOOM!). You can get paint right off the shelf or custom mixed at automotive paint stores. Be sure to pick up a variety of sandpaper grits and some cleaning solvent for that professional look you want.
Preparation is the key to success in any case modding project – or any other kind of project or job, for that matter. Next I will get right into cutting the side panels of this case modding project. Follow the Next Button below to read on.